Looking ahead

Oslo’s Innovation Week has grown as the city itself expands, attracting social entrepreneurs and digital innovators to Europe’s fastest-growing capital. With a booming cultural scene alongside a healthy work-life balance, Fiona Shaw gets excited.
Published —
09.25.17
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This year’s 12th instalment of Oslo Innovation Week is themed around the UN’s sustainable development goals. “Action speaks louder than words,” it says. “And Oslo Innovation Week is allergic to blah-blah.”

“Even if all state budgets were put together, we wouldn’t be able to solve the UN’s sustainable development goals by 2030,” says launch host and InterBridge CEO Nassima Dzair. “It shows how the onus lies with businesses and people.”

Over 50 events will showcase and expand on real world solutions to UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including a climate action challenge to block almost 2,000 tons of CO2 at Innovation Week, on behalf of all attendants and speakers.

Innovation Week’s recurring themes involve ideas around innovation, technology and collaboration — a conscious effort to move reliance away from oil and gas towards a knowledge-led economy has thrown a focus on creating value from research and technology.

Speaking to Oslo Business Region’s managing director Fredrik Winther at last year’s Innovation Week, he said: “It’s the Oslo way. These days — and for the coming generation of investors and tech startups in Norway — if you don’t deliver on sustainability, social value and responsibility, you will simply not be able to attract talents — or get through the door of the many tech incubators in Oslo. To solve real societal problems is becoming and integral part of all business development.”

Plastic in the oceans, sustainable food production, the carbon blocking challenge and impact of data on healthcare are just a few of the subjects up for discussion. The future of work, green investment and edtech’s impact on humanitarian aid will be discussed and dissected, alongside real, demonstrative action.

Geir Lippestad, Oslo’s vice mayor for Business Development and Public Ownership, says: “Innovation and sustainability are the two most important issues of our time. How can Oslo and Norway make a difference in the world in this context? You might think that one of the wealthiest and happiest countries in the world can be laid back on this issue, but that’s not the case. Everyone here this week has the same sense of urgency, and passion to find solutions for a more sustainable world.”

Looking ahead

Looking ahead to Oslo’s year as European Green Capital in 2019, the city has committed to reduce its carbon footprint with massive CO2-cuts over the next few years. By making all attendants and speakers at this year’s Oslo Innovation Week ‘climate positive, the festival will become effective climate action. Every reader of this feature — and any other that mentions it — environmental start-up Chooose will block 1 kg CO2 for every reader in the first week after publication.

Chooose uses carbon credits to create what it calls ‘climate positivity’ — the ability to offset more CO2 than a person or a product leaves behind, branded in a positive way that taps into existing behaviour. Individuals can become climate positive by purchasing a monthly subscription that costs less than a beer, but with a climate impact equal to 45 flights from Oslo to London.

Money raised from subscribers and business members also goes towards funding sustainable projects in developing countries — like renewable energy production as replacement for fossil fuel production, and is used to buy and delete the credits, giving ordinary people access to the global carbon market. CER (Certified Emission Reductions) credits, equalling one ton of CO2, and EU emission allowances can be purchased cheaply by companies to increase the amount of pollution they emit. “We acquire EU emission allowances and delete these from the market, making such permits unavailable for polluting industries,” says Chooose’s co-founder Andreas Slettvoll.

says: “Climate change really suffers from negative branding, and that’s a problem. We can’t brand this as merely doomsday if we want people to respond to it — fear can’t be the key association. Insurance companies don’t sell death insurance, they sell life insurance…”

“It’s a platform for climate positivity,” he says, “plugging it into things we’re already doing. We can choose what kind of impact we want to do, and can choose micro-transactions.”

Working in collaboration with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Norwegian start-up has already ‘blocked’ 15,000 tons of CO2-emissions, equal to more than 3% of the total CO2 amount the Norwegian government has committed to cut in 2017. “The ability to plug it in to every behaviour means people can do what they like — it makes it personal, depending on what they care about. Hopefully I won’t go bankrupt, but I might,” he says of the Innovation Week challenge.

A focus on the ‘what next?’ is the thread that runs between all of the businesses at Innovation Week. Even a highly-digitised nation like Norway is aware of the pace of change slowing down. “Data is the new oil,” says Tor Olav Norseth, CEO of Digital Norway.

Digital Norway’s collaborations include telecom giant Telenor working with the Pakistani government to track the spread of dengue fever, as it monitors data movements via telecoms use. It is also collaborating with Oslo’s local transport system, Ruter AS, to make better use of data to help Ruter provide better services, including creating routes and services that its customers want.

“We’ll be able to take customers from the place they are, to somewhere they actually want to go to,” says CEO Bernt Reitan Jenssen. And that’s what innovation is really about…

Main image credit: CHRISTIAN T JOERGENSEN / EUP-Berlin GbR